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28 November 2013
Development threatens stone circle in Malta

Two brand new two-storey terraced houses are being proposed in the buffer zone of the Xaghra Stone Circle, which forms part of the Ggantija complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the island of Malta.
     Heritage Malta contends that any development in this buffer zone would not only endanger the world heritage status of the Ggantija temples, but of all six Megalithic sites in Malta and Gozo.
     The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage (SHC) had repeatedly objected to the project but in January 2013 it deemed the project acceptable after a number of changes, but said the site remains one with the most considerable archaeological potential, being so close to a major archaeological monument.
     The Heritage Advisory Committee of Malta's Environmental Protection Agency, MEPA, is calling for the prohibition of any development in the buffer zone, while MEPA's Heritage Planning Unit argues that the only development that can be considered is the rehabilitation of a pre-existing rural structure, for residential purposes.
     The Xaghra hearing comes in the wake of the controversial approval by MEPA of a 96 square-metre dwelling only 10 metres from the Ta' Hagrat temples.
     The board will also be considering an application to sanction illegalities on a pig farm which lies within the archaeological buffer zone around the Ggantija temples, include three garages, two blocks of pigsties and a hay store. The Superintendence for Cultural Heritage had previously objected to sanctioning the illegalities and called MEPA to rehabilitate the site.

Edited from Malta Today (25 November 2013)

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